General

Why change grade spans?

The change in grade spans developed out of a need for additional space to accommodate state-funded all-day kindergarten. Early learning is a proven accelerator to close achievement gaps, and expanding access to all-day kindergarten has been a school board-approved priority goal since 2007.

The grade span change will benefit students at all levels.

  • Elementary schools will have fewer space pressures, allowing them to:
  • Maintain and grow early learning programs that help prepare students for kindergarten (a requirement under World’s Best Workforce legislation), and
  • Provide more flexibility for gifted education, student assistance, and other special programs.

Middle schools will be designed to better meet the social and academic needs of young adolescents through:

  • Interdisciplinary teacher teams that consist of teachers in math, language arts, science and social studies who focus their attention on a group of about 150 students at one grade level in a “house” concept (instead of several hundred at more than one grade level in the current junior high model);
  • A daily advisory period with structured curriculum around social/emotional learning, academic oversight, and college/career planning (the latter element being another World’s Best Workforce requirement);
  • Allowing high-performing 6th-graders access to higher-level coursework.

Senior highs will offer a more coherent high school program by:

  • Having all courses required for graduation under one roof instead of being spread between junior high and high school;
  • Offering high-performing 9th graders access to our most rigorous courses;
  • Providing 9th graders easier access to high school sports and activities.

For all students, K-12:

  • Grade spans will be aligned with state K-12 academic standards.

When will the grade span change take effect?

The grades served in each school will change beginning fall 2015. Ninth-graders will move to high schools, and sixth-graders will move to middle schools beginning with the 2015-2016 school year.

When did the Board decide to change grade spans?

On March 18, 2014, after months of study and community feedback, the ISD 279 School Board approved Superintendent Kate Maguire's recommendation to reconfigure grade spans to PreK/K-5, 6-8, 9-12 beginning in 2015-16. The recommendation included a plan to gain the additional space needed to accommodate 9th graders in high school by building additions and repurposing space at each of the three comprehensive high schools – Maple Grove Senior High, Osseo Senior High, and Park Center Senior High.

It’s important to note that while changing grade spans will not result in boundary changes at any level, it does not mean that the district will never change school boundaries. Staff constantly monitors student enrollment and housing development. Periodic adjustments to school boundaries will continue to be necessary as populations shift in our communities and schools. 

How does the plan reflect stakeholder involvement in the decision-making process?

Changing grade spans was discussed in 1996 when Maple Grove Senior High opened and again in 2010 when the community-based Mission Forward Task Force made recommendations in several areas, including grade configuration.  In late 2013/early 2014, as the School Board considered the superintendent’s initial grade span recommendation, the Board used online options and in-person meetings to gather stakeholder feedback on the recommendation. The feedback surfaced a clear concern about boundary changes that would have been required under the initial recommendation.

Reflecting staff and community feedback, the board approved a revised plan to change grade spans in a way that would avoid school boundary changes caused by grade configuration. In order to accommodate 9th graders at high schools in the revised plan, space will be created at each of the three comprehensive high schools through building additions and repurposing existing space.

Will school boundaries be changing, too?

School boundaries will not change as a result of changing grade spans. However, that does not mean that the district will never change school boundaries. Staff constantly monitors student enrollment and housing development. Periodic adjustments to school boundaries will continue to be necessary as populations shift in our communities and schools.

How can I get more information about this change?

  • Watch monthly updates provided at School Board meetings (video archives are available on the district website);
  • Visit the Grade Span Changes section of the district website; the most recent update is always on the home page;
  • Read 279Connect, our enewsletter geared to families (also available as archives on the district website);
  • Email WeListen@district279.org with questions.

Will school start times change?

Start times will remain the same for all senior high schools and elementary schools.  Senior highs will remain in the first of three tiers of start times. Middle school start times will be aligned so that all middle schools are in the second tier. This means that North View Middle School will change start time from 7:30 to 8:10 am.

How much will grade span changes cost?

The total anticipated cost of the project is approximately $26.3 million. The work generally falls into four categories, only one of which will result in a property tax increase (see note below):

  1. $14,955,000 for new construction for additions at each of the high schools
  2. $5,770,000 for interior remodeling at each of the high schools
  3. $1,500,000 for affixed and detached furniture, fixtures and equipment at each of the high schools
  4. $4,094,000 for planned deferred maintenance projects at each of the high schools, with projects scheduled during construction for efficiency

The new construction category (#1 above) is the only one that will require additional taxes. The school district will essentially take out a 15-year mortgage to pay for the new construction. The additional cost to taxpayers (principal and interest) will be approximately $18 per year or $1.50 per month for a typical district home valued at $200,000.

The remaining costs (categories #2-4 above) will be funded using existing school district budgets, with no additional tax impact.

Will there be any changes in open enrollment due to the change in grade spans?

No. We will continue to follow our regular open enrollment process. Elementary schools will have open enrollment spaces determined by grade level in each building K-5. Middle schools and high schools will have open enrollment spaces determined by the number of students in a building.

Elementary School

How will the grade span change affect elementary schools?

Elementary schools will have fewer space pressures, allowing them to:

  • Maintain and grow early learning programs that help prepare students for kindergarten (a requirement under World’s Best Workforce legislation), and
  • Provide more flexibility for gifted education, student assistance, and other special programs.

Will there be any changes in educational programs at the elementary level?

The curriculum, instruction and educational standards department is looking at two particular programs to identify if any changes are needed for the 2015-2016 school year.

  • Gifted education: Any recommended changes will be identified by January 2015.
  • Instrumental music: In anticipation of the transition, 5th and 6th grade students were given the option to participate in both band and orchestra this year. Any recommended changes will be identified by January 2015.

Will my child be able to participate in the DARE program before middle school?

All students attending elementary schools in Brooklyn Park and Maple Grove will have the opportunity to participate in the DARE program before they advance to middle school. During the 2014-15 school year, DARE will be provided to both 5th and 6th grade students (except at schools already offering it only at 5th grade). Beginning in 2015-2016, DARE will be offered in 5th grade. Each police department has taken steps to make this happen.

Middle School

How will middle school be different from junior high?

Middle schools will be designed to better meet the social and academic needs of young adolescents through:

  • Interdisciplinary teacher teams that consist of teachers in math, language arts, science and social studies who focus their attention on a group of about 150 students at one grade level in a “house” concept (instead of several hundred at more than one grade level in the current junior high model);
  • A daily advisory period with structured curriculum around social/emotional learning, academic oversight, and college/career planning (the latter element being a World’s Best Workforce requirement);
  • Allowing high-performing 6th-graders access to higher-level coursework.

Will the change to middle schools require additional teachers?

It might. We are working to determine the staffing process for the upcoming school year.  After the process is confirmed, we’ll analyze staffing needs at each site. If additional teachers are required, we will need to reallocate existing funds to pay for those positions.

What is the difference between a middle school and a junior high?

Middle schools are designed to create a smoother and more effective transition between levels (from elementary to middle school, and from middle to high school). In a middle school, students may have the same teacher for more than one subject and will participate in a daily advisory. Compared to a junior high program, there are fewer transitions from class to class, especially for sixth-grade students.

Is the curriculum different in middle schools?

The curriculum and learning standards are still the same at each grade level. In other words, 6th graders will use the same curriculum and learn the same things when they are in middle school next year as 6th graders in the elementary schools this year. While the curriculum and learning standards will remain the same, students will experience two middle school design elements specifically created to meet the needs of young adolescents: interdisciplinary teams of teachers (house model) and a structured daily advisory.

Will S+ classes continue in the middle school model?

A large team is continuing its work on the design of all aspects of the middle level program. While no decisions have been made yet specific to middle-level gifted education programming, the goal is to make those decisions in January.

Planning for new grade spans provides the opportunity to assess all of our practices, K-12, and to make adjustments where needed to improve the educational program. As part of its work to plan for a change in grade spans, the Middle Level Design Team is looking at all aspects of the middle level educational program, including services for gifted and talented students. The team is considering how best to meet the needs of gifted/talented students within the new middle school interdisciplinary teams.

Here’s where the middle level design work on this topic stands as of early November:

  • First, whatever the gifted and talented services look like, our staff is committed to providing challenging curriculum, differentiated instruction, and personalized learning in the middle school model.
  • 6th grade classes may continue in a cluster model, as they do elementary school, for math and English/language arts. Please note, though, that final decisions are yet to be made.
  • Teachers will be equipped with skills to meet the needs of advanced learners. For example, we’re working with the College Board to provide training on pre-AP teaching strategies to all middle school teachers in math, social studies, science and English/language arts. One of the ways all interdisciplinary team teachers can differentiate instruction, particularly for 7th and 8th graders, is to teach the higher-level thinking that prepares students to take AP courses in high school.

Wendy Biallas-Odell, director of Curriculum, Instruction and Educational Standards, anticipates that the Middle Level Design Team will recommend how gifted education services will be provided in the middle school interdisciplinary team model by early January.

Are 6th graders ready to leave elementary school?

One of the reasons for the change from the junior high model to the middle school model is to provide a more gradual transition out of elementary school and into high school. The middle school model emphasizes personal connections and social development at the same time there is an emphasis on academic rigor and challenge.  Sixth graders, like students in seventh and eighth grade, are going through many changes. Middle schools are oriented to the needs of this developmental stage.

Will Kidstop serve 6th graders?  What will before/after school programming look like at the middle school?

Community Education staff have started meeting and planning for what Kidstop or before/after school programs will look like at the middle school level.

Senior High School

Are the high schools big enough to accommodate all the 9th graders?

By the time the high school new construction and repurposing work is completed, there will be space in each school to accommodate 9th graders.

How will 9th graders be supported in a large high school?

Each of our high schools has been working on ways to ensure that students are connected to adults through advisory and other programs, such as Link Crew. Each high school will be providing information in the coming months regarding how they will welcome 9th graders.

Why are the senior high school names staying the same?

The names of the senior high schools will stay the same because the term “senior high school” can refer to grade 9-12 schools or grade 10-12 schools.

How will lunch be managed at the high school?

To accommodate the additional students at the high schools, the current schedule of three lunch periods will be replaced with a schedule of four lunch periods. 

Will 9th graders be able to choose electives?

Yes. Elective courses at the high school will be offered to students in grades 9-12. 9th-grade students will be eligible to take elective courses for which they have successfully completed the appropriate prerequisite coursework (e.g., If a student wants to take Spanish II as a 9th grader, he/she must have successfully completed Spanish I prior to the 9th grade year).

Staffing

What will happen to the 6th and 9th grade teachers? 

Some 6th grade teachers will move to the middle school while others may take positions at other elementary grade levels.  Some 9th grade teachers will move to the high school and others may take positions at other middle school grade levels.

How will teachers be placed in each building?

The teacher transfer process will be used to move teachers between buildings and grade levels.

What will happen to ESPs?

Many ESPs will stay at the level where they are currently working. With the addition of 9th grade at each high school, some ESPs will move to the high school level. 

What other staff will be impacted by the grade span change?

We are working to determine other staffing adjustments that may be needed.  For example, there will be more students at the senior high school level, so we may need more administrative and custodial support there.

Logistically, how will teachers move to new positions?

In any given year, a number of teachers move within and between buildings.  The district has a set of protocols that define how to pack, what can be moved and when the moves will happen.  A logistics team has been formed to ensure that the moving is coordinated among sites and that delivery of equipment and materials is completed in a timely manner.

Prekindergarten programming

Will the change in grade spans affect prekindergarten programming?

Changing grade spans allows for more space flexibility at the elementary level, so it’s possible that there will be an increase in PreK programs at some schools. In related work, a Pre-K team began meeting in October and will develop a plan to increase school readiness (World’s Best Workforce requirement) and align PreK-5 curriculum and instruction.  

Are there any changes in the programming at Willow Lane or Arbor View Early Education Centers?

There are no grade span-related changes planned for Willow Lane and Arbor View.  Any program changes would be determined as part of our regular PreK planning team's work.

 

Updated November 4, 2014